Friday, April 13, 2007

Vonnegut

I promised the confessional piece today, but of course I can't let the moment pass without a word about Kurt Vonnegut. I was sad to hear that we had lost one of our most humane of literary voices. I knew Vonnegut a bit back in the 1960s, when I was at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and feel privileged to have known him--even though just a bit. I read a good deal of his work over the years, and was always enchanted by his peculiar spell as a writer (no pun intended...) I was moved by his last book, the overview of a man of a good number of years examining the world and our place in it, as a nation, with something approaching despair. I wrote about it in "The Bush Diaires"--the blog out of which "The Buddha Diaires" sprang. Here's what I said, in part, on Thursday, May 18, 2006:

"Just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's "A Man Without a Country" last night. I started days ago and it's a very short book, a very easy read. I guess I'm a slow reader. Actually, I'm a fitful rather than a slow reader. But the book has been on my mind all this time. I've read extracts to friends. I've recommended it. It has to be one of the sharpest indictments of our culture you can read anywhere. An elegy for the human species and the planet earth in what he sees to be their final throes.

"But it's also kind. Avuncular. Full of quiet wisdom. Honest. Plain-spoken. Clear-sighted. It's the kind of talk you'd want to hear from your grandfather, out of the depth of his experience of the world. Funny. Witty. Angry. Full of grief and sadness that things have reached this pitch. Unadorned, unsparing of himself as well as others. And full of love for the world and, particularly, its people. He just loves people. All kinds, particularly those as plain and honest as himself. He reserves his wrath for those who are dishonest, stupid, short-sighted, self-serving, self-righteous, exploitative..."


I wonder what he'd have to say about the current affaire Imus? I'd like to think he'd be as bemused as I by our common aversion to the insults we gladly pay to have flung in our direction.Anyway, thanks to Vonnegut, for everything he had to teach us. Bon voyage to him, wherever he may be headed. Or not. And apologies for the bad taste of quoting myself. As for the confession, well... later. Or tomorrow.

3 comments:

carly said...

Amen. His was the most exquisite couching of words of wrath and warmest tenderness for the innocent. R.I.P. Kurt.

Carly said...

Bill Maher show was great tonight. The humiliation of Bush is well under way, with Maher calling him "president shit-for-brains".

Maher also made two uses of the word "redneck" which I was surprised and gratified to hear.

Sharpton was on screen, defending. Maher took the position, roughly, as you do, Peter, also saying there are people out there scrutinizing and pouncing on every word.

Bill Bradley was cool, making a no-rebuttal- possible case against the whole Iraq debacle.

Dana Carvey was just funnier than hell making fun of Bush.

carly said...

Oh, and Maher made two strong cases against Bush on the score of not adequately equipping the troops, and the fact that 150 people working in the White House are graduates from Pat Robertson's Law School, a Christian law school, where, Maher joked, you only need to read one book to pass. And the young woman who oversaw all those dismissed lawyers is a graduate of that school, which has been cited as at the bottom of schools in academics.

Looks like the Christians in politics are taking the faith right into the toilet. Their humiliation is linked to Bush's.

Sorry I don't remember the specifics, but you can catch this terrific show later this week, HBO.